What should we make of the new and improved Salesforce.com? This version of the company is all about sales, marketing and service queued up on a unified platform named Salesforce1. It's built on a spiffed-up version of the Chatter enterprise messaging platform.
Fading is the old Salesforce which tried to sell a social collaborative platform to an enterprise audience where social has not delivered on its promise. Salesforce's forays into financial and human resource departments remain just that, forays.
The changes to Salesforce are a recognition that the company's impressive growth (but not impressive profits) has come through a 25-company acquisition spree, which at times made the company more like a corporate conglomerate than a sleek, focused new technology company.
It looks more like a United Technologies Corp. than technologies united. The difficulty of melding companies as diverse as Sendia, Jigsaw, Heroku, Buddy Media, ExactTarget and most recently Cloudconnect would challenge any CEO, even one with interests as diverse as Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff.
Now Salesforce is in a grand unification mode hoping to drive revenues from its formidable CRM base by creating a mobile-first orientation for a smartphone-toting business workforce. The concept is valid and in-tune with a business world quickly abandoning its desktop PCs for tablets and ever more powerful smartphones. The difficulty for Salesforce will be selling a company-wide platform.
Platform sales are stickier, and represent a deeper commitment for enterprise customers. While much has been made of marketing departments garnering a bigger chunk of the IT budget, platform sales mean a return to more traditional buying modes.
Department-level sales—whether it's the sales department buying into the Salesforce CRM package or marketing department buying into the Buddy Media Facebook or ExactTarget lead-nurturing service—are often made outside the general confines of corporate-wide procurement practices.
Platform sales take a vendor deeper into the world of evaluation, corporate price negotiations and assurances that the CIO requirements of security, privacy and compliance standards can be met. The platform sale may be stickier, but also is a longer sales cycle with more executive touch points and approvals that must be obtained.
What is less often overtly stated is that CIOs have long memories and vendors that built their business by taking an end run around the CIO's office will have some serious fences to mend before they can move forward.
In addition to the unification focus around the mobile model is Salesforce's focus on the Internet of things. Digitally enabled toothbrushes, health care IT products and automated inventory-control systems were all highlighted on the keynote stages.
However, the Internet of things puts a burden on corporate networks far beyond their current communication capabilities. Salesforce, like many cloud providers, does not provide a lot of detail about their infrastructure design and capacity. Asking a customer to put their Internet of things strategy in the hands of company that still has occasional outages is a lot to ask.
At this week's conference, Salesforce did a good job of talking about the unified, mobile model underlying the company, even if the message was delivered with a heavy dose of market-speak. Salesforce has also been a strong provider of customer case histories. Now the job of describing how all those varied elements resulting from its acquisition spree fit into the Salesforce1 strategy is Job One for Salesforce.
Eric Lundquist is a technology analyst at Ziff Brothers Investments, a private investment firm. Lundquist, who was editor in chief at eWEEK (previously PC WEEK) from 1996-2008, authored this article for eWEEK to share his thoughts on technology, products and services. No investment advice is offered in this article. All duties are disclaimed. Lundquist works separately for a private investment firm, which may at any time invest in companies whose products are discussed in this article and no disclosure of securities transactions will be made.